A diary of the work on the West Gable Wall of Kilbarron Church

Work has now been completed on the west gable wall of Kilbarron Church situated near Rossnowlagh in south Co. Donegal. The church was founded by St Barrainn, a kinsman of St Columcille, in the 6th Century. This is a diary of the conservation work undertaken in 2023.

A view of Kilbarron Church pictured some years ago before conservation work was started

Work has now been completed on the west gable wall of Kilbarron Church. In addition the lintel over the window in the west gable wall has been repaired. As well the lintel over the entrance doorway of the church has been reinforced with stainless steel supports cleverly concealed above the lintel taking the weight of the stonework above the lintel.

The timeline of the work was as follows

The group were awarded funding through the Community Monument Fund administrated by Donegal County Council in March 2023. After sending work out to tender and getting quotes we were able to employ Michael McGroarty as contractor. Later in May, a site meeting was held with interested parties including; Geraldine McManus, Conservation Architect; Tamlyn McManus, Archaeologist; Martin Reed, National Monument Service; Dr Joe Gallagher, Donegal Heritage Officer and Michael McGroarty, Contractor and Stonemason. Additionally members of the Kilbarron Castle & Church Conservation Group who have been instrumental in getting this project underway.

Seen above are: Martin Reed, Tamlyn McManus, Molly Reynolds & Michael McGroarty

The main discussion was on the perilous state of the lintel over the main entrance that showed signs of fracturing and the state of the window in the west gable wall. It was agreed that a structural engineer was needed to assess the problem.

Above are left to right: Martin Reed, Tamlyn McManus, Molly Reynolds & Michael McGroarty

Left to right Dr Joe Gallagher, Tamlyn McManus, Michael McGroarty, Geraldine McManus.
Committee members Martina Needham, Molly Reynolds, Philip & Ruth Cleary pictured with Martin Reed & Geraldine McManus.

Visit to the site of Paul O’Doherty, the structural engineer. By the beginning of September the scaffolding was in place, delayed by the poor weather conditions which meant that the surrounding meadow was late in being mown and saved.

Examining the window lintel Structural engineer, Paul O’Doherty along with Geraldine McManus, Conservation architect & Contractor Michael McGroart

It was decided that the lintel would need to be supported from the weight of the stones above. The lintel above the window was also checked and a plan to repoint the lintel replacing missing stones to make the opening secure from further deterioration.

Conservation work began in October clearing the brambles on the outside of the church and repointing the west gable wall, later replacing the missing corner stones on the south west corner of the gable.

Michael working on repointing the stonework on the outside of the west gable wall
Uncovered base of the west gable wall showing the large foundation stones underpinning the walls. The stone church is believed to have been built in the early 15th Century replacing a much older structure.
Close up of the window before repair
Above the missing cornice stones

View of the re-pointed west gable wall looking south

Pictured on the right.

This is looking southwards along the outside of the newly repointed west gable wall. Two formerly missing corner stones have been replaced on the south west corner.

The project continued through October and November with the meticulous work carried out on re-pointing all the stonework. The weather made work difficult as all the repointing was using lime mortar as the binding. This material is very temperature sensitive and the walls had to be covered in sacking to allow the mixture to mature whilst setting.

The lintel over the entrance doorway after repair
Entrance doorway before lintel repaired and supported
Contrasting view of the west gable wall of the church from the inside on the left before work and on the right as it looked after conservation work was completed
Kilbarron Church after completion of the conservation work on the 4th December. The site will be tidied up in the next few weeks

Conservation work on Kilbarron Castle will begin again in 2024 and other work on Kilbarron church will also be undertaken. We acknowledge the kind co-0peration of the landowners of the site and surroundings and are grateful of ther understanding whilst this conservation work was in progress.

If you wish to help the project with a small financial contribution follow the link to ‘Adopt a Stone’

Help our Castle and Church conservation work by donating to our Adopt-A-Stone appeal.